By Adrian Fletcher, Psy.D.
“Find something to represent her and put an item in your office so that she feels accepted,” My therapist said. She shared this advice with me while I was working on healing from dissociative identity disorder (DID) formerly known as multiple personality disorder. The “she” my therapist was referring to was one of my altered states (also known as alters/parts).
I could not believe that this had become my life — talking to my therapist about my different alters/parts and ways to help them, love them, learn about them, write to them and attune to their needs. It was like taking care of a large family inside myself. It was the ultimate lesson in parenting, the reparenting of myself, all of me. It was also exhausting, sad, irritating, disappointing and incredibly painful.
Though the journey has not been easy, having reached a solid understanding of who I am in addition to coming forward with my lived experience has brought me a profound sense of peace and emotional freedom.
It was a costly journey — both financially and emotionally — and absolutely worth every dollar spent and every tear shed.
Now, I’m hoping to give back by sharing my experience and helping others in their recovery.
There were times I thought about giving up on my healing journey, but my heart knew that I could not. So I put one foot in front of the other, took things one day at a time and held on tightly to myself and to my faith.
For me, coping meant keeping up with therapy, consulting with my mentors and attending trauma-healing intensive workshops, soul workshops, women's groups and bodywork. It meant letting my husband show up for all parts of me and asking for help, encouragement and support as I navigated the healing journey. It required building a network of healers and strengthening my internal and external resources as I leaned in and surrendered to fully trusting the process.
The healing process presented many challenges, like getting to a place of loving all my identities and accepting that they were all me. It also required fully confronting my past. When I was able to accept what happened to me, the diagnosis itself and the impact DID has had on my life and relationships — things started to change. I allowed myself time to grieve the reality of my childhood and finally let out my tears and feelings. It was a process and the transformation did not happen overnight.
After years of effort, I reached a place of internal trust and cooperation. I was ready to live. I was happy, healthy, connected, loved and respected. Most importantly, I loved and respected myself.
I never intended to speak about my lived experience. I had never even planned to disclose my diagnosis to any family or friends. My plan was simply to heal and forget about it. But then I found my voice and began to embrace my experience and diagnosis.
I wanted to encourage others to keep going, to hold on, to work toward recovery and to have hope. My purpose became clear: I wanted to help others. I wanted to work serve my community through public advocacy, speaking, educating, consulting, writing and my work as a psychologist because I could understand the perspective of both therapist and client. Through this work, I hoped to change how DID is perceived.
I respect that a public disclosure of a highly stigmatized and debated condition like DID is not for everyone, nor is it always safe depending on a person’s circumstances. For me, it required deep thought, consideration, time, consultation and a solid place in my recovery.
For those who have reached a point in their recovery where they can tell their story in a safe and empowering way, I recommend taking time to share your experience with others.
I want my story to change the negative and inaccurate narratives surrounding this mental health condition and to instill a sense of hope.
A diagnosis does not define me, nor does it define anyone else. I am a human being who has endured extreme trauma. I am no monster, and I am not dangerous. My favorite cartoon as a little girl was Care Bears, and I can tell you with certainty that I am a cheerful person with a tender heart. I want the best for people. I genuinely believe others deserve to love themselves and to get to a place of self-love and self-acceptance.
As Brenè Brown says, and one of my therapists used to reiterate to me all the time, “Love will never be certain, but after collecting thousands of stories, I am willing to call this a fact: A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all men, women and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong.”
I have come to view having DID as a gift. I would not have survived without it. Of course, I made mistakes. I let people down. I missed a lot. The journey to get here was not perfect and recovery was not and will never be perfect. Healing will be lifelong, because as a human being I am constantly growing, adapting and learning. But this process has taught me that I wanted more for myself and for others than to just live-in survival mode. I wanted to thrive.
“I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” – Rosa Parks
Adrian Fletcher, Psy.D. is a human first, therapist second. She is a licensed psychologist, EMDR certified therapist, consultant, speaker, writer and mental health advocate on a mission to dispel the myths and misconceptions associated with dissociative identity disorder (DID) by sharing her lived experience.
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